The rumors were swirling on Tuesday evening, and Tennessee confirmed the news late on Tuesday night — he’s back. Santiago Vescovi will return for one final season with Tennessee, set to use his ‘super senior’ season.
That’s massive news considering Zakai Zeigler might not be ready to start the season, coming off of a torn ACL. The Volunteers get a veteran back, perhaps allowing them to transition a little smoother into a new era of players.
Josiah-Jordan James, Uros Plavsic and Julian Phillips all still have decisions to make. Olivier Nkamhoua has already thrown his name in the portal.
Tennessee did make a move yesterday, adding Justin Gainey’s son Jordan from the portal. The former USC Upstate guard averaged over 15 points last season, and is a career 40 percent three-point shooter. Gainey will now join Vescovi, Jahmai Mashack and eventually Zakai Zeigler in Tennessee’s backcourt. BJ Edwards and true freshman Freddie Dillione should also factor into that rotation.
So Vescovi, who burned a season of eligibility way back in the day after Lamonte Turner was shut down in December, now gets that year back thanks to the Covid year rule. The 6-3, 192 pound guard averaged 12.5 points per game last season, shooting 37 percent from three. Vescovi has the full trust of Barnes and certainly could help bring along guys like Edwards, Dillione and Cameron Carr.
There’s one piece of the puzzle, now Tennessee must continue to evaluate the portal and be ready to react if more spots open. They’ve already hosted Harvard forward Chris Ledlum and Northern Colorado guard Dalton Knecht on visits to this point, and they’ve of course been in contact with several others.
The NBA Draft deadline for underclassmen early entry is coming up on April 23rd, which should give us our answer on Phillips. Tennessee’s 2023-24 picture is about to get a lot clearer.